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New study shows targeting arterial stiffening earlier in a person’s lifespan could provide cognitive benefits in older age and may help to delay the onset of dementia.

Human body with heart and brain highlighted

Researchers at the University of Oxford and University College London investigated 542 older adults who received two measurements of aortic stiffness, at 64 years old and 68 years old. Subsequent cognitive tests and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans assessed the size, connections and blood supply of different brain regions.

The body’s largest artery (the aorta) gets stiffer with age, and the study found that faster aortic stiffening in mid-life to older age was linked to markers of poorer brain health, for example,

  • Lower brain blood supply
  • Reduced structural connectivity between different brain regions
  • Worse memory

Medical interventions and changes of lifestyle made earlier in the lifespan could help to slow down arterial stiffening. In an ageing society where we expect a near tripling in the number of people living with dementia by 2050, identifying ways to prevent or delay its onset could have significant societal and economic impact.

The full story is available on the Department of Psychiatry website.

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